NIXA, Mo. — Friday night’s game for Joplin at Nixa can be described using simply two words.
But it didn’t finish quite the way Joplin wanted.
Joplin had the ball on its 35-yard line with 1:50 to play and trailed 35-34. Joplin moved the ball near midfield, but quarterback Always Wright’s pass was tipped and Nixa safety Clayton Uber came up with the interception on the 6-yard line with one minute left.
Nixa ran out the clock as Joplin fell 35-34 -- a loss that ended the Eagles' 16-game regular-season winning streak. Joplin's last regular-season loss was Sept. 7, 2018, at Carthage.
Joplin coach Curtis Jasper took full accountability for the loss.
“We saw them on film and we knew they looked good on film,” Jasper said. “They outplayed us, honestly. I have got to do a better job coaching. They were the better team tonight. We didn’t click (offensively). They did a real good job of keeping us out of rhythm.
“This one’s on me. I have got to have them better prepared and ready to go.”
Offense was at a premium early on.
Nixa struck first thanks to quarterback Reid Potts, who was back after a one-game suspension due to an ejection that dated back to last season. Potts hit receiver Smith Wheeler for a first down, and that set up a 41-yard touchdown strike on a post route to receiver Michael Sportsman to put Nixa up 7-0 with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter.
Joplin cashed in with a methodical drive after Luke Vieselmeyer's second interception. Running back Nathan Glades capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run, tying the score at 7-7 with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Potts was forced to leave the game due to an apparent knee injury. He was carted off the field with 47 seconds left in the quarter.
To open the second quarter, Joplin scored first as Glades took the snap from center and didn’t look back. He high-stepped over a tackler and ran into the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown run to give Joplin a 14-7 lead at the 8:34 mark.
Nixa then followed with two scores. Sophomore quarterback Austin McCracken threw a 53-yard touchdown to Steven Ward II and a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wheeler for a 21-14 lead.
But with nine seconds left on the clock, Joplin answered again after Wright connected with Dante Washington over the middle for a three-yard touchdown pass for a 21-21 halftime score.
Nixa shut down Joplin offensively in the third quarter and used a McCracken four-yard keeper to give it a 28-21 advantage heading into the final frame.
Nixa stretched its lead to 35-21 at the 7:46 mark following a nine-yard touchdown run from Ramone Green, who powered through tacklers and blasted his way into the end zone.
But Joplin cut the lead to 35-28 after a Washington 21-yard touchdown grab with 6:21 left. Washington struck again just a few minutes later after receiving a pass on the left sideline -- he got hemmed in by Nixa tacklers and then completely reversed the field for a miraculous 31-yard touchdown reception.
Joplin went for the 2-point conversion but failed to convert as Blades was stopped on a run up the middle with 2:11 left.
Nixa recovered the onside kick, and Joplin's defense registered a three-and-out to give the offense one final chance, but it ended with the interception.
“We got some turnovers in the first half and I was hoping that we could get more out of them,” Jasper said. “It just didn’t happen. Turnovers were huge. We didn’t capitalize on them as much as I would have liked to.”
Jasper said one positive Joplin can take away from this game is its ability to rally from behind in crunch time.
“Obviously, they are resilient,” Jasper said. “We have seen that over and over again. It was nice to see them do that at the end of the game. I wish I would have seen them do that earlier.”
McCracken stepped up big for Nixa in Potts’ absence and played like a seasoned veteran. He completed 5-of-9 passes for 122 yards, including two touchdowns and one interception. Green had 33 carries for 163 yards and one touchdown.
“McCracken is a gutsy kid,” Jasper said. “He makes plays with his feet and his arm. He did a really good job.”
For Joplin, Wright went 13-for-22 passing for 155 yards, three touchdown passes and two interceptions. Glades had another big night, rushing for 113 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.
Joplin plays host to Ozark, a 26-16 winner over Branson, next Friday at 7 p.m. at Junge Field on Senior Night.
“We have to do a better job of starting and coming out of the gate,” Jasper said. “But again, that’s on me. I’m happy we get to have Senior Night. We are going to recognize the seniors and do a good job playing for them.”